Student experiences and perceptions of compulsory research projects: a veterinary perspective

Cardwell, J M and Magnier, K and Kinnison, T and Silva-Fletcher, A T (2017) Student experiences and perceptions of compulsory research projects: a veterinary perspective. Veterinary Record Open, 4. e000243.

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Abstract

Background Although research underpins clinical work, many students training to be clinicians are not inherently interested in developing research skills. Aim To characterise and understand veterinary student experiences and perceptions of compulsory research projects. Methods This was an explanatory sequential mixed-methods study, with a questionnaire survey of an entire cohort informing purposive selection for focus group discussions. Student views were triangulated with staff questionnaire data. Results About a third of the cohort felt that the project had not been worthwhile or had not fostered useful skills. Focus group data analysis identified fragility of motivation and lack of clear schemata for the research process as key themes. Students were easily demotivated by typical research challenges and lack of schemata contributed to a poor understanding of the rationale for the project, encouraging highly extrinsic forms of motivation. Triangulation with staff questionnaire data indicated that staff understood students’ challenges, but were more likely than students to consider it to be a valuable learning experience. Conclusions Findings support ongoing curriculum development and emphasise that, to optimise motivation, engagement and learning, students training to be clinicians need a clear rationale for research, based on development of critical inquiry skills as a core clinical competency.